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Montreal hitting targets in COVID-19 projections but future uncertain: public health

Provincial public health authorities paint worrisome picture of the evolution of COVID-19
The province's public health authorities released their projections on Thursday of what the next wave of COVID-19 infections could look like. And while officials wouldn't provide numbers, the projections are grim if Quebecers don't keep up with physical distancing measures. As Global's Raquel Fletcher explains, the next few months will be telling.

Quebec’s public health institute on Thursday released fresh projections on the evolution of the novel coronavirus in the province but said it was still too difficult to determine the trajectory of the pandemic across the greater Montreal area — the epicentre of the virus in Canada.

Hospitalizations and deaths attributed to COVID-19 are going down in Montreal, said researcher Marc Brisson, adding that the city “is in the optimistic scenarios” that his institute projected in early May.

On May 8, Brisson’s team projected there could be more than 150 deaths per day in the city by July. Those death tolls have not materialized — and Montreal has recorded a drop in the number of new daily cases for the past week.

READ MORE: Quebec experts cautiously optimistic about COVID-19 hospital projections

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Brisson said the government’s decision to delay the opening of city schools until September and the opening of retail stores until this week helped Montreal avoid the worst.

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“All those things changed,” Brisson said. “Now, we are more on the optimistic side of the data.”

But the institute’s new projections vary widely.

Brisson told a news conference that if Montrealers have a “strong” adherence to public health directives, half of his models project a gradual reduction in the number of hospitalizations and deaths until August.

READ MORE: Quebec looks to hire 550 orderlies from abroad to staff long-term care homes

But, he warned, the other half predict a slow increase in hospitalizations and deaths — even if most Montrealers followed the rules.

A strong adherence to public health directives, Brisson explained, means having between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of people doing such things as keeping a proper distance from others and wearing a mask in public.

It also means public health authorities are able to isolate between 75 per cent and 90 per cent of symptomatic COVID-19 cases.

If, however, fewer than 40 per cent of Montrealers follow public health directives, and only between 60 per cent and 75 per cent of symptomatic cases are isolated, then the models predict a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths by August.

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